Monday, January 31, 2011

Where Do You Write?

Harper Collins recently twittered about Katrina Kittle's blog where one can read about how different authors organize their writing day and where they like to write. While I mostly write at home, I also write while traveling. Here is one of my recent writing desks in a rooftop cafe overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul. I will be returning there this spring to promote the Turkish edition of Anahita's Woven Riddle.

To visit Karina's blog go to:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Iranian Children's Environmental Art

I came across this website on Persian Art that highlights environmental art projects in Iran. Children in the village of Kotenta made this wreath out of local trash. In their words,

"We were impressed by too many rubbish stocked in the river.By the time we got there it made us to create another version of "Pile of Pollution."
We decided to ask people to collect their garbage to make a sculpture out of rubbish.
We wanted to point out the pollution in this area. Garages were saving for two days.
Hoping that this installation could give people to pay attention."

Photogragh by Sharnaz Zarkesh

For more images see website:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Novel About Afghanistan

I am pleased to introduce a fellow YA author from my home town Trent Reedy and his debut novel Words In The Dust. This story charmed and captivated me from the first few pages. I will soon be speaking with the author in a local cafe to ask him about his experiences in Afghanistan and his challenges in writing his novel. Meanwhile, check out the review of this book by School Library Journal, which begins...

"A children’s book, written by a soldier about an Afghani girl, set in the recent past. That’s a toughie. There are a lot of easier books out there to review too. Why aren’t I writing one about the adorable little girl who wants to be Little Miss Apple Pie or the one about the cute dog that wants to find its home? Well, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone, which I suspect is what author Trent Reedy wanted to do here. With an Introduction by Katherine Paterson and enough backmatter to sink a small dinghy, Reedy takes a chance on confronting the state of the people of Afghanistan without coming off as imperialist, judgmental, or a know-it-all. To my mind he succeeds, and the result is a book that carries a lot more complexity in its 272 pages than the first 120 or so would initially suggest. Bear with it then. There’s a lot to chew on here.

Zulaikha would stand out in any crowd. It’s not her fault, but born with jutting teeth and a cleft upper lip she finds herself on the receiving end of the taunts of the local boys, and sometimes even her own little brother. Then everything in her life seems to happen at once. She’s spotted by an American soldier, who with his fellows manages to convince their captain to have Zulaikha flown to a hospital for free surgery. At the same time she makes the acquaintance of a friend of her dead mother, a former professor who begins to teach her girl how to read. Top it all off with the upcoming surprise marriage of Zeynab, Zulaikha’s older sister, and things seem to be going well. Unfortunately, hopes have a way of becoming dashed, and in the midst of all this is a girl who must determine what it is she wants and what it is the people she cares about need..."

The rest can be read on the SLJ blog:

Learn about how Trent Reedy and his publisher Scholastic are donating funds from the novel to Women for Afghan Women:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Japanese Literature

I just finished this novel, which translates as "the heart of things," and recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese culture and especially to writers. Soseki Natsume is a master storyteller.

Wikipedia says, "Major themes in Sōseki's works include ordinary people fighting against economic hardship, the conflict between duty and desire (a traditional Japanese theme; see giri), loyalty and group mentality versus freedom and individuality, personal isolation and estrangement, the rapid industrialization of Japan and its social consequences, contempt of Japan's aping of Western culture, and a pessimistic view of human nature."

Nutsame's quiet voice and brevity of words throughout the length of the novel gave me the impression of dwelling inside a poem. His language also seemed to match the mood of the spare settings---rural villages, a graveyard. The artful manner in which this writer sustained tension, the prolonged grief of his central characters, is something to marvel at, if you can see beyond the agony that you will undoubtedly feel when reading this story.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Give Away Winners!

Woo hoo! Congratulations are due to the two readers who checked in this week with their guesses for the identity of the item of material culture, featured to the right of this post. The first contestant Danielle Buckley wrote:

"I would like to guess the item for a copy of Anahita's Woven Riddle!!! If I don't happen to guess correctly or be the first one to guess, then I will just have to buy that book for myself as it is one of my top favorites of all time.

"How many guesses do I get?

"First I will guess some sort of incense holder that is used in prayer or during meditation. Perhaps it is a lamp? Maybe a holder for something like ashes. Is it an urn? Does it hold something precious like... treasure? Maybe it has something to do with communion because it sort of reminds me of the plates that are passed around.

"I have no more guesses left! Hope I got it right.

"Thanks for writing Anahita's Woven Riddle and please check out my review on library thing."

While Danielle made some very good guesses, she did not guess correctly. But, she won a copy of Anahita's Woven Riddle anyway because she was the first person to enter the contest.

A day later Jeannine Bakriges wrote with the correct answer: a lunch box.

When she heard that she had won, she said, "I won?!!!! Ha!!!! That's soooo neat! WOW! Thank you for running your contest!"

I found these intricately carved lunch boxes in the artisan market in the Old Jewish Quarter of downtown Damascas. Check out the Syrian pages on my website for other examples of traditional crafts that are preserved by local artists there.

My next book give away will take place in April. I plan to do this quarterly, so check in from time to time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Iranian Film Review: A Moment of Innnocence

I just watched this film last night by Iranian filmmaker Moshen Makhmalbaf and strongly recommend it. The premise, taken from the jacket cover, is a poetic and often comic reconstruction of an incident that dramatically affected the lives of two people...While making an earlier film, Makhmalbaf met up with a policemen in the Shah's regime, whom he had stabbed when seventeen years old, and served time for. Reunited, the policeman declared that he wanted to be an actor. The director used this reunion as a springboard.

I found the film artful, I liked how Makhlabaf played with time and reality. It encompasses themes of revenge (I think, and would like to hear your thoughts about this), redemption, the power of innocence---perhaps the reassurance that youth can rightly take a better path.